Best of Foundr
Welcome to our special “Best of Foundr” edition of the podcast!
To celebrate Foundr’s 5th birthday, we put together a series of special edition podcast episodes that feature the best snippets from our most popular episodes. We pulled out the gems from each of your favorite interviews and compiled them into a three-week series of pure content gold.
This week we are focusing on how to create an online presence with content marketing and Instagram. We are featuring some serious advice from our conversations with Gretta Rose van Riel, queen of Instagram and Influencer marketing; Darren Rowse, the OG of the blogging world; Deonna Monique, Instagram millionaire; and content king Derek Flanzraich, founder of Greatist.
Enjoy listening to the best of the best!
- The influencer marketing strategies behind Gretta van Riel’s multimillion-dollar ecommerce brands
- How to build a successful content-based business with Darren Rowse
- The branding and traffic strategies behind Greatist’s massive success
- How to use Instagram to generate millions of dollars in your niche with Deonna Monique
Full Transcript of Podcast
Nathan: Hey guys, welcome to the Foundr podcast. I’m really excited about the series that we will be bringing you over the next few weeks as we celebrate Foundr’s 5th Birthday!
I can’t believe we have reached this incredible milestone and I’m so pumped to be sharing the celebrations with you, our community! One of the ways we will be marking the occasion over the next few weeks is to do a “Best Of” series on the podcast.
We have clipped and edited the most popular episodes of the podcast we have released, and found the gems from each episode that will really give you an edge when thinking about your own business, your own brand and how you are operating.
This week we are focussing in on Content, Marketing and your presence online. We get asked ALL the time about blog content, SEO, social media – in particular Instagram, and how to form your presence online.
So as a special treat for you, this week have found some serious gold from our conversations with Gretta Rose Van Riel, queen of Instagram and Influencer marketing; the OG of the blogging world, Darren Rowse; Instagram Millionaire, Deonna Monique; and, content king Derek Flanzraich, founder of Greatist.
To get started, here is some gold from the Instagram queen (17+million followers and counting) and Influencer Marketing genius, Gretta Rose Van Riel. Now Gretta has been on the podcast 2 times, and both her episodes are the highest ranking, most downloaded episodes we have ever released! She’s one of the smartest female founders that I know out of Melbourne. She’s absolutely crushing it. She’s a master of e-commerce. She’s a master of growth, and marketing, and product. . Here is some of my conversation with Gretta talking about tactics around growth Hacking, Instagram tactic and Influencer marketing.
(81: 15 Million+ Followers on Instagram & Counting! Interview with The Instagram Queen Gretta Rose van Riel)
Nathan: But let’s move on to this growth hacking stuff because I’m super impressed with how you grow these companies at such a speed. You kind of say like…you kind of say as if…you’re very humble. Like you’re getting lucky but you’re definitely not. I wanna know, you know, how do you find out these answers that, you know…and all this knowledge you have because you have no background in startups and, you know, this is all new to you. First of all, how do you find the answers, and talk us through like maybe your…like your latest product that you started, how would you grow that over social media, in particular Instagram? Like let’s talk some strategies. What would you do?
Gretta: Okay. Well, to begin with, I didn’t have any background in business, but then
luckily through some opportunities that came about from SkinnyMe Tea actually, to begin with, I was able to gain a lot more business insight. I’ve had some incredible mentors. I’ve met some incredible people that…some of which you’ve actually interviewed on this show. So back in 2013, we won the Shopify Build a Business Award, which meant that Shopify flew us to New York to meet with a lot of different mentors and different advisors including Tim Ferriss, Daymond John, Eric Ries of The Lean Startup and a lot more. And that was kind of the first time that I realized that I wasn’t just stumbling upon something. Like you said, it wasn’t just all luck, that I was doing something that was quite different and unusual, and that a lot of the people within that competition that were other winners as well were doing a similar thing and that was…mostly had to do with audience building.
So Instagram was definitely the area that I was most comfortable in, and I kind of identified the fact that not everybody is willing to follow a product page per se, especially for SkinnyMe Tea. Not everybody wants to follow… I had a page that has the word “skinny” in it, unfortunately. I just thought it sounded cute at the time. I wasn’t trying to enter into any paradigms or discourses surrounding weight in that way. And B, that we’re very branded. So I thought of funnels in general and I thought of growth funnels online, and it has to do with identifying a lot of different verticals. So I split down the verticals within SkinnyMe Tea, for example, and I split those mostly into food and nourishment side, and then fitness and health side. So then I started building out pages across Instagram in the food and fitness demographics, and then kind of funneling those interested customers back into the business page and onto our website through those. So we were able to, over time, build up a following of over 15 million Instagram followers. So across my different accounts, which include Vines for example, @vines on Instagram. That’s been a very popular one. It grows organically. Every 2 to 3 weeks, it grows a 100,000 followers on its own just because of the name and because of the engagement on the account. So that’s got 5.3 million followers now, 5.4 million by today, I would hope. Because it’s about to tick across actually.
And yeah. So building up those Instagram pages across verticals was really, really helpful for us in not only relying solely upon your product page.
Nathan: Yeah, I see. So when you say building up pages, just for the audience, you’re saying that you build these fan type enthusiast kind of pages which are just, I guess, like a vision board that inspire people or, you know, they might be…they would follow that page because you know you’re not…it’s about a certain niche or topic that people can get behind and it’s not a brand page, it’s not a business page. People who aren’t gonna be sold to, or the assumption is there that it’s…there’s not gonna be much ads or product pushes or anything like that, right?
Gretta: Yeah, definitely. And when you do do an ad or a product push, you want that to be as organic and authentic as you possibly can. So you want to offer real insights and you want to offer incentives to actually click across and follow something. So we might offer…we have an Instagram account called @freeeatingplan on Instagram. And they click through to our website and they get a free eating plan that they can download and use during their detox. So adding those incentives has been really, really important in our content strategy, and through various sources, and other content strategies like that have been really, really helpful for us.
Nathan: I see. So if somebody was starting out, you know, like let’s say you were starting from scratch again, you know, you’ve got this e-commerce based product, you’ve identified a trend or something that is quite hot maybe on social media or you think it’s coming. What would you do? Like how would you go about building an Instagram account? You’d start a couple, you’d start a couple of fan pages. Then build up the brand account. What other tactics there. Can we delve a bit deeper?
Gretta: Are we assuming that I don’t have my 15 million followers?
Nathan: Yeah. Let’s assume that you don’t. What would you do from scratch?
Gretta: Let’s assume I’ve got zero followers.
Gretta: The first thing I’d do is read your guide on how to build followers.
Nathan: Oh, thank you.
Gretta: It’s one of the best resources I’ve actually read on Instagram on building an Instagram following. That’s why I’ve reposted it on our blog and everything. It definitely has a lot to do with your content strategy. So it’s kind of identifying, not only the product that’s trending at the time, but the content that’s trending in the verticals around your product at the same time. So on Instagram right now, if you wanted to do a skin product, tutorials are trending on the popular page or on the explore page at the moment. So you might build up a tutorial page at the same time and then advertise the skin product onto that page. But the way that I’d start building a page would definitely be content, engagement, growth and then conversion. So you’d start with content and you’d have a look what was quite popular within your industry. See other like minded pages and see what’s going really well on those pages, and then use those as a kind of content guide for yourself. Then you’d move on to people engaging with that content, and that might be in terms of starting off with some hashtags so that you get some further engagement on your post.
Nathan: Target audience. Yeah. Target audience.
Gretta: Yeah, for sure. But Nate, yeah. I don’t know. It’s hard. I wouldn’t use…I hate it when people say like, “Oh, use hashtags, use this.” I know that they’re the starting points, for sure, but it’s actually more about joining with other pages that have a similar demographic and a similar reach to you.
Nathan: So yeah. Let’s talk about…yeah. Let’s keep going. Let’s keep going. But we wanna talk about S for S and stuff like that too.
Gretta: Yeah, for sure. So S for S, like you’ve identified in your post, is a concept of shout out for shout out, which means that you would collaborate with another page. I loved your concept of collaboration over competition actually.
Nathan: Oh, well, thank you.
Gretta: You collaborate with another page and you mutually help each other grow. So it’s great to find a page that has a similar following to you. Say you have…you’re starting off with 500 followers. If you can find another page that has a similar style, similar visual elements, similar content strategy and a similar amount of followers, there’s no reason why you can’t take half of those followers and become 750 followers again. So then you team up with a page that has 750 followers or multiple pages that do and you shout each other’s content, which is you would post their photo. They would in turn post a photo from your page and they’d mention your page like, “Hey, check out my friend’s new page.” Or, “Follow @weightlosssecrets for actionable tips on how to lose some extra kilos.”
So that’s one strategy. At the same time, I understand that that is a really, really important strategy, but also if you don’t want to lose some of your engagement on your page through shout outs, then a shout out for shout out, you can always pay for shoutouts. So you can pay a page, another inspiration style account, to post your content and grow more organically through that.
149: How to Use Influencer Marketing to Generate Millions with Gretta Rose van Riel of SkinnyMeTea
Nathan: So why is influencer marketing so key now if you do have any kind of brand? Because we’ve done it at Foundr and we’ve done it, like, reasonably well as well, nowhere near to the scale that you guys have done it, but it’s been incredibly key for us, you know, to build our social, yeah.
Gretta: No, it’s just a different market. I think you guys have done a really great job with influencer marketing. Just I think, like, the main importance is that constantly, the trust of a consumer for a brand is decreasing over time. Brands used to be more of a trusted authority point for a consumer, and now, consumers kind of are feeling disillusioned by a lot of brand history. So I think, like, the main importance of influencer marketing is that influencers not only have an audience’s attention, but they also have that audience’s trust. And so it’s kind of that trust component that makes influencer marketing so important, and that makes it so effective as well. So I think, like, the main importance of influencer marketing is how effective it is on your company’s bottom line. It’s the most effective digital marketing technique that there is right now in terms of ROI.
Nathan: Yeah, wow! That’s a big claim. Like, how do you measure ROI? That’s something that comes up a lot.
Gretta: Well, there are a lot of kind of different ways to measure social ROI. It depends what your goals basically are, and whether those goals are kind of more follower and social-growth-based or sales-based, and you can track and manage both of those. A tool that we’re building into Hey right now for our follower-based campaign is the ability to track, follow a growth based off the new followers that you gained after an influencer’s post that used to be their followers and are now your followers. So basically, the algorithm would do their followers minus your followers equals followers gained. So you can see that you, like, have gained 56 followers of one influencer post and 1020 of another, and that just makes it very, very clear that the ROI, in terms of social growth, was much higher for one influencer than another. And often, you might be really surprised by the influencers, we find, especially for micro influencers, because they have that higher level of trust and because their feeds aren’t as saturated with branded content that sometimes, they provide really surprising results. So it’s just great to have that tool there to track.
Nathan: Yeah, gotcha. So if you ever wanna know more about how to use influencer marketing to grow their brand, to grow their business, is it B2C mainly, or can B2B do it? Love to hear your thoughts there.
Gretta: Yeah. I think that basically, it’s going to usually be more effective. It just depends on the audience of the influencer. Basically, like, an influencer is someone that has an audience’s attention, basically, and can influence their audience on a brand’s behalf to buy the products they recommend. So if that audience happens to have a lot more business owners in it, like Saunders, for example, then that’s when you’re an influential body or you’re an influencer in the B2B network. And we are looking to integrate LinkedIn to Hey as well so that we can harness kind of that more B2B aspect, too, with the LinkedIn influencers.
Nathan: Yeah, that would be really, really smart, because there are people like in the B2B space that have big followings around, you know, SaaS, or big followings around consulting or…you know, like Richard Branson, I don’t know if you…do you think that you would get business leaders to connect to the platform, to do influence deals?
Gretta: Yeah. I think that we mostly implement our kind of more code marketing aspect, that’s when that will come in a lot more. So basically the point of difference for Hey to other platforms in the market, I think, like I’m in kind of a bit of a unique position to comment on influencer marketing in that I’ve been on the brand side representing my brands, and also having those 17 million Instagram followers. I’ve been on the influencer side before, so I can kind of understand the pain points and complexities from both sides of the market, and the main thing that I’ve noticed that is lacking in the market right now is the understanding that influencer marketing is a multi-directional relationship. It’s not just a brand sending an influencer a brief and saying, “This is what you need to do.” Like, there needs to be the component for an influencer to be able to pitch to a brand, and then also for multiple influencers, or like maybe a bit of a kind of content crew, like, you know, “This is our hair stylist, this is our makeup artist, this is our photographer, this is the model, blah-blah-blah, this is our videographer,” to be able to then go pitch their creative concept to a brand.
And then, also, the next stage of the product is then multiple brands being able to collaborate on a single campaign, so, say, there’s a lot of brands that are often identified with other brands, or where competition isn’t going to be an issue, I’ve always been a lot more into collaboration over competition. So it’s that kind of collaborative aspect that a frank body, like my sister’s company, could team up with the SkinnyMe Tea because we have really similar audiences, but it wouldn’t be detracting from either company’s sales, and we could split the cost of that influencer marketing campaign. We could say, as long as…you know, like, if you’re doing a body scrub, that’s quite detoxifying for your skin, and if you’re drinking a detox tea at the same time, that wouldn’t be an unusual thing to happen. People often use our products side-by-side, so why not team up to create that content at scale at half the price?
So it’s multiple brands being able to team up like that, like a sunglasses company and a T-shirt company. The opportunity is kind of endless in that way. So I think it’s like connecting brands to collaborate, brand to brand, at the same time as connecting influencers to collaborate with brands, brands to collaborate with influencers, but then, also, the next step after that is the influencer-to-influencer collaborations. So it’s the fact that you need to constantly be focusing on your growth as an influencer, and you should be spending 80% of your time as an influencer focusing on your organic engagement and 20% focusing on your branded content. So that 80% of your time can be spent collaborating with other influencers that are around the same size as you and around the same breach.
So we’ve already got this platform with, like, highly-engaged influencers to be able to connect those influencers, to collaborate at the same time to help grow their social accounts, also to help show them, like, e-metrics and data based off the other tool that we’re implementing with the tracking of followers. How that’s fairing for them will be really, really important. So it’s connecting this market in multiple directions.
Nathan: That’s fascinating, yeah, because as influencers, like, you know, you see all the YouTubers, they all collaborate, like they’re all from LA, they’re all getting in each other’s videos, they’re all collaborating. They don’t see each other’s competition. Yeah, same thing.
Gretta: Yeah, which is great, and it’s like fashion bloggers that hold those giveaways where you have to follow one of them, and then you follow the next one, and the next one, and the next one. On Instagram, for example, they’ll be giving away a Gucci bag or something like that, and they all collaborate together, maybe like five of them, and share each other’s reach in that way.
And you said the micro influencers, the ones that, you know, might be just starting to get a following. Are they the ones that you really want to tap into, where they’re following is quite big, they’re not doing that much posting, they’ve got a reasonable, like, a really, really strong deep trust with their audience the most? Or have you seen results with really, really big ones, too, like maybe a Kylie Jenner? I’m really curious on that.
Gretta: Yeah. I think that a lot of people speak about their really high results with macro influencers like Kylie Jenner, like, “Oh, we sold out,” but they may have only had, like, 50 units in stock to sell out, and a post with Kylie Jenner cost $300,000. I haven’t heard one brand actually regenerate all of the sales they spent on that one post with a macro influencer like a Kylie Jenner. So, like, the celebrity as an influencer side isn’t often going to work unless you have, like, a personal relationship with that influencer, which is very unusual. Like, if Kylie Jenner happened to be, like, your cousin’s best friend, then, great, go for it. But the great part about macro influencers is macro influencers influence your micro influencers, so it’s more that the macro will influence the other influencers that you might want to work with.
So often, there’s a macro influencer of a market. So, say, Sydney foodies, the macro influencer of that market might be Li-Chi Pan, for example, who has a much, you know, a higher following. I think she’s got, like, over 500,000 followers, very engaged, and every Sydney foodie knows that Li-Chi Pan is kind of like a go-to person in terms of content-styling, audience engagement. So if you do engage a macro influencer, you can use that as leverage to engage your micro influencers, plus your micro influencers will have had exposure to your brand through seeing it on Li-Chi’s feed. So you’re much more likely to then be able to pursue them for just a product-for-post or a cheaper post than usual. So I often just use macro influencers to influence your micro influencers, and micro influencers influence your customers.
Gretta: So the micro influencers will influence kind of like your user-generated content. So a great way to kind of get users and your customers to create the images they want is by using those micro influencers for constant content generation, and then your customer will use that as inspiration to then create content based off that.
Nathan: Yeah, because UGC is so key. Like, as a great way to sell, you need to have influencers. You need to have everyday people, like me or you, using the product because that’s what people relate to the most.
Gretta: Yeah, because that’s the real results in reviews. People are increasingly understanding that influencers are paid or influencers were given that product. So it’s an influencer’s job now to stay as authentic, and real, and organic with their audience as possible, and knows their role, and it is a brand’s job to allow that influencer to kind of propagate their creative. Like, you should not be saying, “Post this with these exact words,” or…like, it’s really unfair on the influencer and it’s not going to have good results for your brand. An influencer knows their audience.
And the great thing about influencer marketing as well is that studies have shown that influencer marketing leads to 37% higher retention rate of customers at the same time. So because those leads are more qualified, because they already have that identifiable kind of feeling towards your brand, when they’re signing up, they can remember kind of why they signed up in the first place, or which image, you know, resulted in that sign-up, and so then they identify that with your brand on a more ongoing kind of basis because they’ve got that emotional attachment as well to your product.
128: The Godfather of Blogging Shares How to Create Content People Love – Darren Rowse of Problogger
Guys, now we will jump to Darren Rowse. Darren is the godfather of blogging. If you do have a start-up, you do have a business, and you’re not utilizing content marketing to get more traffic to draw, you know, to build your business, then you’re missing out. And this guy is one of the best in the world at it. He runs a company called Digital Photography School. It’s one of the top photography blogs in the world, generates millions upon millions of visitors, and he also runs a very, very, very successful blog called ProBlogger. In this interview I picked his brain on what it takes to build and grow a successful content-based business.
Darren: Nothing big has ever happened to me out of the blue. It’s always started as something tiny, it’s always started as an idea that’s keeping me awake at night, or just something that someone says in conversation that gives me an idea that won’t go away. And it’s about paying attention to those things that give you energy. Doing experiments around those things. So, you know, and having a blog is the perfect way to do an experiment, to put a post out there, and to watch what happens as a result of you putting your idea out there. And when other people get energy by what gives you energy, they’re the golden moments and that’s what you need to invest your time into. So I’m a big believer in, you know, learning as much as you can, sucking in as much information as you can, and paying attention to what gives you energy and experimenting around that.
Nathan: Yeah, I know…it’s funny to say that because I was just thinking, like, when we started that Instagram course, the reason that we started an Instagram course, and I never even thought we’d get into, you know, the online education space in terms of video courses as I was because we wrote a blog post about Instagram, and that just exploded. And that’s still to this day the most successful blog post on our site because we just, you know, really went in depth and just…people just were blown away by it. And then I also said, “Well, guys, would you be interested in the course on how to do some of this stuff?” And, yeah, it just really took off. So, yeah, a blog is a really great place to run experiments and tests.
Darren: Yeah, for sure. And, you know, my best-selling product was an ebook, “31 Days To Build a Better Blog,” and that started at 2:00 a.m. one night, an idea that wouldn’t go away. And I got up and wrote at saying I’m gonna start these free series tomorrow if you want to…if there’s enough interest in it. I woke up the next morning, there was energy coming back to me and I ran it. And then I ran it the next year, I ran at the next year because the interest grew and it turned into an ebook which turned into a second e-book which turned into a series of podcasts. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. But it all started by paying attention to that little idea and then watching to see what happened as a result of it. The same thing is true for many of the products that we’ve created on Digital Photography School. We always are analyzing how articles, how our tutorials are going over. And if one takes off, it turns into, you know, a follow-up and then we begin to do some surveys and testing around whether people might be interested in that type of product. And then eventually, hopefully, it’ll become either a course or an e-book or something else.
Nathan: Like, what are some things that people can learn? Like, if you have a startup that you’re running, you know, or if you wanna start a lifestyle business, you know, why should people be blogging? What are some things people should be doing? How often should be people be blogging? You know, just run us through like what you recommend to people usually, Darren.
Darren: Yeah, sure. I guess it…there’s different types of blogs and that’s probably one of the first things you need to ponder. It’s…you know, what’s the goal of the blog? Is it…is the blog going to make money? And, you know, my blog started out, I ran advertising on them, That’s how they made money. And so the blog itself made money, whereas other people would start a blog to support an existing business that they already have and use a blog more for content marketing to build their profile, to build their brand, and to drive people to that business. So there’s that distinction that you need to make there. And so, really, the answer to that will determine how you wanna build that blog.
Nathan: Okay. All right. Let’s just go down one pathway. Let’s go down the pathway of, like, someone’s starting a business. They know what the business is about, you know, they’re trying to drive traffic, you know, they want to get more leads, sales, followers, and profit.
Darren: Sure. Yeah. So if you want to use the blog to support a business and not make money directly, you need to think about ultimately what you want your readers to do and it’s probably to buy your product or to hire you. And so you want to start creating content on a regular basis. That’s going to be the first step in that journey. And so positioning yourself, thinking about the customer that you want to have, I guess, and what is interesting to them. What are their pain points? I’m a big believer in writing content and creating content that’s going to eliminate pain in the life of those you want to read your blog and solve problems, fixed needs, and touch on those sort of fears that people have, dreams that people have as well.
And so you want to be really thinking about who your reader is first, and then think about how you wanna change your reader with your content. And so this is an exercise that I do on my blogs all the time whether…no matter what type of blog you have. Where is your reader when they come to you? What are their problems and needs? And where do you want them to be as a result of reading your blog? Do that on a whiteboard, put a line between them,and once you’ve got that point A and point B, you can begin to fill in the gaps. What do they need to know? What do you need to teach them that will get them from point A to point B? And those become your blog points in your blog posts.
And so for me on Digital Photography School where my readers come, they’re in automatic mode. They’ve got these great cameras, they don’t know how to use them. They’re taking average photos. I want them to…that’s where they are. I want them to have full creative control of their cameras, that’s point B. And so I know that if I want to get them from one point to the other, they need to learn about things like aperture and shutter speed, how to hold a camera, all these basic things. And so I did this exercise when I started Digital Photography School and I came up with about 200 things that they needed to know to have full creative control of their cameras. And so that was my first year’s content.
So that’s just a really simple exercise that you can do that will help you to create content that’s actually gonna change people’s lives in some way. It may only be a small way, it may not be, you know, solving poverty or, you know, changing the world in that way, but if you’re changing people in some way, they’ll actually come back and they’re gonna tell other people about it. And I think that’s a really big way to build a successful blog. Yeah. So, you know, creating content that takes people on that journey.
The other type of content you want to think about is shareable content. And you don’t wanna just do shareable content, you don’t want to just do funny things or infographics or…because that kind of content that shareable content can be a lot bit light and fluffy. It doesn’t need to change people as much, but you don’t wanna sprinkle it in. And so for Digital Photography School, we realized that our readers really responded to when we did a post that was 20 images on a certain topic. You know, beautiful gorgeous images. Our readers responded to humor. They responded to anytime we mentioned Canon versus Nikon. They started to debate. Those type of pieces of content got shared a lot. So a good place to go and find that type of content for your particular topic is BuzzSumo.
Nathan: Yes, BuzzSumo. That’s killer. It’s expensive but you can use a free version which is awesome.
Darren: So you just type in your topic and it will show you the most shared pieces of content on that topic and that they’re the type of pieces of content you want to sprinkle amidst the other cornerstone content that you create. So that shareable content often gets the eyeball, and then you can pull people from it into your cornerstone content that builds credibility. And if you wanna convince someone to become a customer of yours, you need to build that credibility. You need to show that you know what you’re talking about. So don’t just do light and fluffy stuff.
Nathan: Like listicles.
Darren: You don’t want to just do the listicles although they can be powerful but what I find…
Nathan: You like the listicles?
Darren: I like listicles but I always…some of my best listicles are actually lists with links to my cornerstone content. So here’s 10 things you need to know about blogging, and then if you want to learn more about each of these 10 things, there’s a link into a 2,000-word article on that topic. So you get to share with the list but you get the conversion, the loyal reader, because they work through some of that further reading and they’re like, “Wow, they know what they’re talking about. I need to subscribe.” So, really, think about that type of content, mix it up, but always be driving people deeper into your blog to the content that’s going to change their life in some way.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. All right. This is awesome. This is…you’re really telling some good wisdom here, Darren. I’m loving it.
Darren: Oh, cool.
Nathan: So I have a few other questions, you know. You know, one, and this is something that I’ve been thinking about with the Foundr team, is we’re producing brilliant content right now. We produce maybe three blog posts a week and these are, like, in-depth life-changing pieces and we’re really, you know, tackling certain things and they’re really, really useful pieces that we’re tackling. But the next question is, and this is something I raced in my team was, like, “Guys, we’re producing epic content, killer content, but we’re not doing anything around promotion besides, you know, having our automated systems promoted through Twitter, promoted through Facebook.” Do you guys have a process when you produce a piece of content around promoting it? Because content production is only half the work, right?
Darren: Yeah, for sure. Look, killer content is great and it will get shared if you’ve already got readers. But if you’re just starting out and you don’t have any readers, you need to do the sharing, you need to seed that content yourself. And so you’re probably at a point where it’s gonna have benefits if you’re promoting it but you’ve already got the readers who are gonna do that for you to some extent. So if you’re just starting out, yeah, I think it’s really important to get off your blog, to not just have a “build it and they will come” mentality because they won’t just come no matter how good it is. You need to be pushing it out there.
A really simple thing you can do is to grab a piece of paper or open a document and identify the top three bloggers in your niche, the top three Instagrammers, the top three podcasters, the top three Twitter users, the top three Facebook pages. Come up with a list of the most influential people in your particular topic. And then ask yourself, “How can I build a useful presence on those blogs, on those Facebook pages, in those podcasts?” They’re the places you should be hanging out adding value. Not just promoting your stuff, but actually solving problems for people who are also hanging out there. That gets you on the radar of those types of people, you know, that then opportunities come for guest-posting, for being interviewed on podcasts, for engaging on their Facebook page, and them sharing your content as well.
That’s what I did when I started out and it really worked very well. So, you know, don’t see other people who are doing what you’re doing as competitors. Actually, see them as potential friends who, you know, might be collaborators and that you can help and that they can help you as well. But we don’t have a system as such for promoting pieces of content. For me, it’s more of a case-by-case situation. If we produce a great piece of content, I’m not just pushing it out to every single person I know, I’m thinking about who has readers who would benefit from that piece of content and I might email that person.
Nathan: Yeah, okay. So you’re doing direct outreach for every single post.
Darren: Not every single post, but the ones that I see a real connection with. The only thing that we do do for every single post is, I guess, push it out to our social networks. We use CoSchedule for, you know, putting things on to Twitter and onto Facebook at certain intervals. So after we publish them…but, yeah. Apart from that, it’s a bit more case-by-case and, really, just trying to be useful to the blogosphere in my particular niche as well, you know, by participating in Twitter chats or, you know, just engaging on other people’s Facebook pages and that type of thing.
Nathan: Also, you know how you said not to view people as competitors and more collaborators, this is a big thing for people. I know that in, like, you know, our space, online business, online entrepreneurship, startup, whatever, this is fine. But what if you had, like, you’re in a different niche, do you think that this is relevant for every single niche not to view other people as competitors and view them as potential collaborators?
Darren: I think it is relevant for every niche, but it also I think depends on how people treat you as well.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s true.
Darren: So you can’t treat someone as a collaborator who’s not wanting to collaborate.
Nathan: Yeah, of course. Yeah.
Darren: That doesn’t mean you need to get fiercely competitive. For me, that just means I move on and maybe find someone who is, I think in most industries that I’ve had anything to do with as usually, in networking groups and people who are willing to collaborate, who are willing to engage and work together. You know, I can think of offline, you know, business networks that I’ve been a part of in the past. And, yes, there’s always selfish motivations there and, you know, that’s, I guess, just part of who we are. As people, we want to further ourselves to some degree, but I think there’s always people who are really genuinely open to working together. And as long as it can be a win-win interaction, yeah, I think that definitely that should be your starting point, is looking for that type of relationship.
(79: How to Use Instagram to Generate Millions of Dollars in Your Niche with Deonna Monique)
Now Deonna is the founder of Boho Exotic Studio, and they sell hair extensions. And who would have thought that, you know, being behind social media, you could generate millions and millions of dollars especially over Instagram selling hair extensions? So in this interview, Deonna shares with us tactics she has used for seeing explosive growth in her business, like Influencer marketing and how to overcome bad feedback.
Deonna: What I learned from working in a business is that I learned that all I have to do is find… You were talking about this in your Instagram domination, how you were saying, you know, find people that work in your niche. And that’s what I did. I went out and looked for my local celebrity. I didn’t wanna go out to like Beyoncé and contact, you know, the Beyoncé, but I want to contact the Beyoncé in my local area who was that person?
And so I found my local Beyoncé, and her name was Kim JoHansson. If you guys don’t know who she is, definitely look her up, which I naturally think she’s… You know, she still is. She’s my Beyoncé. She helped me. But I contacted her and I said, “Hey, you know, I’ve got these hair extensions. I just want you to try them out,” because, you know, she can wear anything and it just naturally fits with her. But she was like, “Well, you know, they have to be good hair extensions,” and, you know, she was all about quality herself.
But I sent them out to her and she loved them. And she had, you know, hundreds of thousands of followers back then, and it’s, you know, tripled since. But she had hundreds of thousands of followers. And she did a YouTube video and then she did it on her Instagram and it just went…
It just went crazy after that, yeah. So then from that local celebrity, then I went to her local celebrity, and then just kind of spiraled to where I didn’t have to contact anyone anymore. People, you know, contact me, from celebrities, to movies, to TVs, you know, just magazines, everywhere.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. So you think that working with influencers in your industry has been massive for the growth of your business. Is that what I’m hearing?
Deonna: Yeah, I can definitely say that that is, you know, 100% helpful as far as a beauty influencer, because they’re who… You know, on Instagram, when it comes to women, we look at other women. We like to see what make up their wearing, what eyelashes and hair extensions, what dress they’re wearing. So when it comes to a beauty influencer, it’s really important. A lot of people laugh at that. They say like, “Oh, you’re an Instagram model? Like, “Yes.” Do you understand that as a CEO, I’m looking out for them every day so yes, of course.
Deonna: …I just I went so tunnel vision and working so hard to make my name as credible as it was from the very beginning before she ever made the video, and her video is actually still out there. But it doesn’t bother me because, you know, like I said, how I started in the business is basically the customer. I try to get my name and my face out of it and put the customer. You’re gonna hear… just like how I once was before I started my business and how I was doing YouTube videos, I wanted…and Instagram posts or whatever. I wanted the customer to do that, do that like that with my company instead of me being the face of the company, let the customer be the face. Let them tell you for yourself if they hate the hair, let them say it, if they love their hair let them say it.
And so that’s exactly what happened. So you’re getting Instagram posts of customers from all over the world, that are saying, you know, all this great stuff. And it kind of picked me up, and it helped me. Because the customer’s voice is a very loud one. The customer is not always right, but I make them feel like they are.
And I just put the tunnel vision on and just let them run the show as far as their opinion and what they think, because that helped me build and craft the company to where it is built around them. It’s what they want. From the hair texture to the quality. I mean, the quality is so insane right now. There’s no company that can even compete with mine. And I say this…I don’t say just because, you know, I’m like I love my business or whatever. I say this because this is what the customer tells me, and going as far as, you know, very “bigger company.” And I say bigger as far as more followers than I have because it’s the only difference that we have.
They were even mentioning me on a television show just recently and saying that I was their competition. I didn’t even think that I was their competition. I don’t see anybody as my competition. But for them to mention my name and for, you know, different hair companies to come after and say, you know, “Shut your business down. Your business looks like my…” It’s like no, it doesn’t at all. You know, I’m in my own entity. I’m in my own lane.
And I think that when I follow my own lane and listen to the customer, everything just falls into place. And so now, the company as far as, yeah, was there a hard time like that… if there was no harder time than that that was it. You don’t want the… Now, I don’t see it like that. If a customer made a video or a post or they said they hated my company, I would treat it completely differently now. But back then, it was very…it hurt me. It was like the end of the world for me. That’s what it felt like.
But I changed. It helped build me and grow me like, “Yes, I’m gonna fix this. I’m never going to, you know, do business with you ever again. But I definitely am going to change, you know, the outlook of the company and make it something that’s quite untouchable for anyone to be able to say negative things about it. And I just put that energy in the air and that’s just what comes back. I have quality and the customer sees that, and that’s what I love about it. The customer, if they love the hair, they say it.
And that’s also another thing about my Instagram page, is if you go my Instagram page, you won’t see…kinda moving subjects really quick. But you won’t see a lot of, you know, very like, professional photos with these, you know, photo shoots that were taking place. We do that but for the most part, it’s really about the customer. So I want it to be able… Because customers, I have to tell you, when it comes to hair extensions and the customer looks at the product, they don’t believe when a celebrity comes on to the page and says, “Hey, guys, look at my product. Click on their link and get 10% off.” They don’t believe stuff like that. They really don’t…
They think, you know, “They were just getting paid to do this. How am I supposed to know that this is real?” So what I do is, you know, most of our feed is nothing but customers, because you know why? The customer can see… The person that is clicking on our page is gonna see the actual customer wearing the hair for two years, for a year, for six months. They’ve dyed the hair. And they can actually click on the customer’s picture and say, “Hey, do you like this hair?” That’s where my marketing has come from. It’s all come from the customer. It’s all come from word of mouth, you know, word of mouth from social networking.
And that is where I get my piece, because, I mean, right now, we’re a little over 90,000 followers and it’s growing, and it continues to grow because I believe that it is this word of mouth and that the customer can be able to ask the real questions to real customers and get real pictures and real video of real hair, which is not going on in the industry. I think people think that, you know, if it’s all professionally done, which is good. It looks good. But that’s not… It’s really important to listen to the customer, and I think that’s what I have got down is I listen to what they need. And it may look different but I guarantee you, it makes more sales.
(115: How to Build a Millennial Brand with 10M Monthly Visitors with Derek Flanzraich from Greatist)
Now we’ve got a super successful entrepreneur, Derek Flanzraich who is the founder of a company called greatist.com.
Derek was really, really cool to meet and what’s really impressive is what he’s done with his company in five to six years. They now have 10 million monthly unique visitors. And he understands branding, he understands traffic. And I know a lot of you guys are interested in content marketing and Derek gives a ton of gold around their content strategy.
Derek: I moved into this apartment with me and these two people. One of whom I never met in person and the other one I didn’t know that well. And they were the two most important people in, you know, Greatist’s very early days. And they instantly hated each other and they worked extremely well together. And it was, like, if somebody could have a reality show, they wouldn’t believe how hilarious this summer was. Like, it’s like it…they would have thought the whole thing was scripted. Like, it was a literal unreal thing. We all lived in the same place, we cooked dinner for each other every night. We, you know, fought and, like, edited and it was just, like, such an insane thing. And, you know, then we went right to bed and woke up the next morning and went at it again.
And then as we were approaching the end of the summer we acknowledged that no…traffic hadn’t changed, basically traffic had plateaued. And this was really disappointing. And I remember sitting around the table and having the first of… So there’s this book, I think we may have talked about it when we met, but this book by Ben Horowitz called The Hard Thing About Hard Things.
Nathan: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Great book.
Derek: It’s a great book. And in it he talks about, I think they’re called, the “we’re fucked, it’s over” conversations.
Derek: And we’ve had many of them. This was probably the…I mean this was at least the first major one. We sat around the table, we’re like, “We’re fucked, it’s over, guys. People aren’t ready for this, society doesn’t need content. Like, maybe society really isn’t prepared to accept that accomplishing and succeeding at health is more than just, like, a miracle pill or a shortcut. Maybe we’re just not there as a people yet. Maybe people…this social media thing, you know, maybe it’s not really the answer. And us producing a very small quantity of content at a really high quality, maybe that’s the wrong approach to take. Because what we really should be doing is spamming Google, which we refuse to do.”
And we sat around this table and slowly said, “Or, you know, maybe we just need to focus. Maybe we need to focus in on the demo.” At the time we thought we were going to be the. “And maybe we need to double down on something that’s starting to grow.”
And so that’s what we did. We decided…looked around the table and said, “Let’s focus on millennials since we’re all millennials and we think we know them relatively well. And where are millennials?” And all of us were recently…had started using this small platform called Pinterest. And we loved it and we thought it was, like, this really exciting, interesting platform.
And so we decided then and there that we were going to focus our demographic, you know, our target demo entirely on millennials and we were going to focus entirely on them on Pinterest. And we basically doubled down, I mean really, like, over-invested in that, decided everything was going to have a visual component, decided we were going to be the most innovative and the biggest…the most innovative people on this platform.
And we picked the right platform, frankly. Picked the right platform and picked the right content for that platform. Because that took us from… You know, Pinterest took off in the end of 2011, it was, like, the hottest thing. And we were there for that ride, I mean we were a part of that ride. We went from, I want to say, you know, 100,000 or less unique visitors a month to, like, 1 million. And, you know, suddenly we were, like, off to the races, a real site. You know, one million, like, and then over the next year so that built into something like two to three. Basically on almost all Pinterest traffic.
Nathan: Wow. And do you still get a lot of traffic from Pinterest now?
Derek: We do, actually. Today Pinterest… You know, at one point Pinterest made up something like, I want to say, 60% of our traffic. You know?
Derek: Maybe 60%, 70% of our traffic. And today it makes up roughly 10%. But, you know, 10% of 10 million is no joke.
Derek: It’s somewhere roughly around one million unique visitors a month.
Derek: So our traffic actually from there hasn’t changed that much, we still get roughly the same amount, despite the growth and saturation and all that stuff of the platform itself.
Derek: This is another one of these “we’re fucked, it’s over” conversations. We realized, basically, that we had trained people to… Well, so the Internet was changing.
Nathan: And what year was this?
Derek: This was, like, well, 2013, I would say. So the Internet is changing. When we started out in 2011, it was basically good enough that we wrote content that didn’t suck. Like, the fact that we were writing great content in the write voice was enough and people were like, “Wow, great content, go there.” But as we approached 2013, frankly, other people were figuring things out and not writing total shit content. Which is great news, I mean we were thrilled about it. However, it meant that our differentiation was less clear. And Pinterest, which was a huge benefit for us, started to pale in comparison to how well other people were doing on social channels like, oh, Facebook and, you know, other places.
So out team, however, that we built had sort of frankly been, like, a little bit brainwashed. Right? Most of them had come right out of college and they were brainwashed into writing exactly terrifically well what we asked them to do, which is thoughtful, quality-driven pieces without any real sense or ability for any social network besides Pinterest.
Derek: And frankly Pinterest is different from other platforms in that it’s not a social network. And they say this at Pinterest.
Derek: It’s not. Pinterest is the kind of thing that you can almost, like, add onto your content, you just have to really think about it. And the topics of the content you’re writing have to be related to it. So it has to play a part in your strategy, but it’s different than, like, you’re writing for it. That wouldn’t even make sense, really, for Pinterest.
So our team, really terrific, amazing writers who were doing terrific work, couldn’t quite make the leap. And I blame me, not them. Right? Like, I was the one who was leading the charge here, I was the one who couldn’t convince them and train them and teach them to evolve into, like, a next generation version of a journalist. And so in an admission of my, like, failure, ended up having to let them go and replace them with people who actually already had this experience and understood social media packaging and framing in a new way, on top of being great writers and journalists.
And so it was a particularly sad time. But, thanks to the new team we hired, we went from something like two-ish million to five, and then six. And we sort of reached this Holy Grail that I’d heard of of the five million unique visitor mark, and that was huge for us. That helped us, like, you know, really pushed us over the edge, I think, in, like, saying, “Okay, this is a real thing, we’re a real company, people. take us seriously.” And that move is really important. And at the same time we got, I don’t want to say “lucky,” but by sort of a happy accident we ended up starting to do very well in Google Search.
Ironically we had set out to sort of be the anti-search play. We looked at what was in Google Search and we said, “This is the worst stuff ever.” And we said, “People are so sick of this, they’re going to turn to places like Facebook and like Pinterest for their health and wellness information, inspiration, frankly because, like, they’ll trust it more coming from their friends. So we’re going to be the best answer from their friends.”
And that was a good strategy, frankly, and better than I even thought. Because what happened is that Google… You know, we used to call it “skate to where the puck is going.” You still sometimes see that today. And basically, like, we were like, “What should Google be sharing?” And then you know what? Google caught up and Google actually took our stuff that was now being shared on social media and was actually really terrific and started showing it really high in the results organically. And so today, half of our traffic comes from Google Search, organic Google Search. And we don’t have, like, and SEO strategy, we just write great content.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. So you do no keyword research, no, like, link-building, nothing?
Derek: Okay, so I’m going to say we don’t, but you are going to think I’m an idiot for saying that. But it’s true.
Nathan: Yeah, wow.
Derek: In some ways we’ve sort of felt like we don’t want to play with fire. Like, we’re not dumb about the keywords. Like, you know, we know when something is trending, that, like, that’s a hot topic, so we’ll write more content on it. But we’re not, like… You know, we definitely don’t do any active, like, link building, though our content tends to be evergreen resource-driven and tends to get a lot of links. We write our content for sharing, which I think is a very strong signal, obviously, in Google. And we truly set after, like, the best piece of content. And you know what? Like, good for Google. I genuinely believe Greatist is the best answer on any topic you search for, if we’ve written about it.
And so Google’s algorithm, as it started to weed out the content farms and started to take down bad content, started to reward us better and better. Every time they do an algorithm change at Google we end up…our traffic ends up growing.
Derek: We have, like, general senses of how much each of our, you know, categories is going to produce every week, but we’re not, like, counting it. You know, we just have a general sense. We don’t think quantity is a metric that matters, just like I don’t think increasingly uniques and page views is a metric that matters. All these things can be gained and are not inherently valuable on their own. If you’re not trying to spam Google or spam Facebook, why are you writing 50 or 500 articles a day? Like, literally why? Nobody needs that, nobody can read that, users don’t appreciate that.
So we sort of take what everyone is doing because that’s what people do and we basically, like, flip it and we ask, “Why?” You know? And then we try to do things the right way. That doesn’t mean we don’t write content that is, you know, packaged and framed thoughtfully for Facebook. It doesn’t mean the fact that we’re starting, recently going to start writing some native, you know, native-driven articles on Facebook, where it literally just lives on Facebook. You know, we’re constantly experimenting with every one of these social platforms. We’re not, like, purists for the sake of purity, we don’t not care about our content performing, don’t get me wrong. Our belief, actually, is just the opposite. It’s that if you produce amazing content and you package it and frame it the right way, that it will heavily outperform, you know, what everyone else is doing. And sometimes we say sort of like, you know, if you had got four and five shots on goal, better make them good ones. And we take really good shots.
Nathan: Yeah. So let’s take it back. How can people, you know, early stage startups and founders getting started, how can they use what you know to get started utilizing content? And not, you know, as a traffic play or as, you know, a great way to connect with your, like, perspective audience that you’re going after to connect people up with your product or your service.
Derek: Yeah, okay, so I think a couple things. I think first, my first advice always is a little exercise I call the Little John. Do you know that story about, like, Robin Hood?
Nathan: Yeah, of course.
Derek: You know who Robin Hood is? All right, so I’m, like, a weird, like, fantasy person, so I like that bizarre stuff. Anyway, so the Little John exercise basically starts with you with asking people, first, who is their audience, and second, what do you want them to do? And people will often answer something like, “It’s women and I want them to buy my necklace.” Right? Or let’s say, “Buy my online course.”
And so then what we do with the Little John is we first say, “Take who you think your audience is and make them as small as humanly possible.” So this is the “little” part. Like, literally so small you feel uncomfortable. And if you come out with something like, “We are for suburban mothers between 35 and 40 with one to three kids who are middle class and love the movie Must Love Dogs, love rom coms, they’ve got a dog, they’ve been thinking about getting a cat. They, you know, think a lot about spending more money on the gym. They think they need to go back to the gym, but they never really show up there.” And on and on and on. You create this, like, really powerfully specific psychographic and demographic profile.
And then you take the second thing that you’re saying, this is the “what do you want your audience to do,” and you broaden that as much as humanly possible. Oh, you thought they were buying a course? Actually they’re buying a new way to think about who they are in society and their place within it. Oh, you think they’re buying a course? Actually they’re buying something that will give them the confidence they’ve been missing since graduating high school a valedictorian. Oh, you think they’re buying a course? They’re actually learning to save so that they can go on the dream vacation they’ve always wanted.
And so you change sort of and broaden… You know, it depends, of course, on what the course is, because that won’t apply to every course. But basically the Little John takes what you’re thinking and tries to narrow and specify your audience as much as possible. Because I believe that if you’re not really relevant to someone, you’re not relevant enough to anyone. And it takes whatever you’re trying to accomplish, which is sort of… And most people, “What do you want them to do?” and most people answer that with, like, what you’re doing and it takes you to the why. Nice. This is like Simon Sinek’s Start with Why.
Derek: I don’t particularly… Okay. I have mixed feelings about Simon Sinek. But I think that the ultimate message of the why is really important. You know, it translates in a really big way.
So why do I say all that? The Little John exercise, which I think is…I’ve been saying it that way now for maybe four or five years. It’s because then the answer becomes, “What kind of content do I create? What kind of product do I build? What do I tweet?” And it just becomes so much easier. You’re creating such powerful constraints around, you know, who you’re trying to reach and what you’re trying to aspire them, inspire them to do. That then you can kind of create a voice that resonates with them, you can speak to them where they’re at. Right? So, you know, that’s a big part of, “All right. Well, then where are they? Where is this audience? Where is the audience that you specified very, very, very, very, in very focused way. And where are they looking for that message overall that you decided you’re bringing them?”
And so that’s literally how I approach…I would call this, you know, step one to sort of, like, marketing, much less content marketing. But I think that’s…you know, what we’ve done, I think, really well, maybe the only things we’ve done really great… And, look, I think we’ve done a lot of things very well, I think we’ve done a lot of things poorly. Like, no one is more critical, hypercritical, than I am about, like, what we can improve on. But we have done one thing really well, and that is over time increasingly narrowed who our audience target was and increasingly gotten better at communicating, like, what the mission is and what community, what identity, what ultimately, like, is our approach to what they’re taking?